An internet user in Guangdong recruited by a foreign spying operation was paid 3,000 yuan (HK$3,700) a month to provide information on military research, the People's Daily overseas edition reported yesterday.
The man, a native of Sichuan province who lived in Shantou, was jailed for 10 years, it said.
The news follows reports at the weekend that an unnamed foreign country had for years used Chinese social media and internet forums to recruit spies and gather military information.
Since 2007, at least 40 people in 20 provinces had provided military information to a foreign intelligence agent identified only by an online alias, Feige, or "Flying Brother", the paper said. The report did not mention Feige's nationality or the intelligence agency he represented.
The report said Feige befriended internet users via online bookstores or military web forums widely popular among young Chinese internet users. Feige recruited the Guangdong informant via Tencent's instant messaging service QQ, at first pretending to be woman. The target was identified only by his surname Li.
Feige established a close rapport with Li. But, after one month of chatting, he identified himself as a man and offered to pay Li 3,000 yuan a month for information. Li subscribed to "internal military publications" available only on the mainland and monitored important military bases for a long time at the instruction of the foreign spy, the paper said, citing national security officials.
Li provided extensive information on bases and equipment, compromising military security, the paper said. He was jailed for 10 years for stealing military secrets.
Popular Chinese military fan forums, such as Top81.cn  and Tiexue.net  often closely follow the developments in PLA equipment and weaponry, and provide surprising insights into the nation's military strength.
Some analysts say these forums could not exist without tacit approval by the government.
For more than two years, the forums carried "insider leaks" and photos that purportedly showed the navy's secret Class 055 guided-missile destroyer.
The J-20 stealth fighter jet, not expected to be in use for several more years, become an open secret after fans uploaded photos of a prototype in 2010.
Last week, enthusiasts spotted a new type of intelligence aircraft and shared photos on Weibo.